Monday, May 20, 2013

30 Ways to Steal an Election in Pakistan

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 
 C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) in The Weight of Glory

Election rigging is an art as well as a science. It’s the magic that would baffle and dazzle even Locke, Rousseau and Kant. Pakistan’s street-smart mansabdars, aka politicos and imperial officers, have morphed into such savvy operators of this political instrument that Charles Darwin may now have to complement his unidirectional hypothesis for hierarchical progressive evolution with a bidrectional hypothesis that equally incorporates a degenerating atavism and de-evolution. “What goes up must come down,” said Newton.
In fact, motivational seminars and consultancies by our mansabdars to the world demoncrazies could not only secure Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness across the slave world but could also be an eternal source of hedonism for the baby-mansabdars. So, let’s not under-estimate the power of such charming jerks in large groups; indeed a few committed jerks are all that we need to turn the “Land of the Pure” into the promised “Land of Milk and Honey.” Remember, bananas are not essential for a demoncrazy; what’s good for the heart is also good for the bart and his cart!

It would have been helpful had the universities in Pakistan produced few doctorates on rigging an election, but does it matter? How to... Only in... do we really need a PhD to rig or understand election rigging in Pakistan? Does it really matter who votes and how many votes, or rather how do you vote and who counts? Yes, no, may be!

History is witness to our accomplishments. We introduced large-scale rigging for the first time in Jan 2, 1965 presidential elections by thrashing rival polling agents and stuffing and swapping ballot boxes to thwart Ms. Fatima Jinnah’s challenge to Ayub Khan. The General was not scared of the Mother of the Nation, he just wanted to develop “a one-man’s or may be fifty persons’ democracy” that were to have “stability through compulsion, force and big stick,” as Ms. Jinnah put it. The country paid the price five years later but let us not connect the events of 1970-71 in the East Pakistan to the electoral fraud of 1964-65. By 1977, we had improved our art and delivered Z A Bhutto with more than he had asked for. This time Z A Bhutto paid the price, not for our miscalculation and his misfortune but for those stubborn politicos who could not accept Bhutto’s big mandate and manoeuvred his fall. With two of our amazing achievements in disarray, we had to review the standard operating procedures, rewrite all rigging manuals and model various scenarios for any desired outcomes. Consequently, the 1984 presidential referendum and the elections thereafter, particularly the 1990 elections, the 2002 presidential referendum and the 2013 elections, are testimonies to our progressive excellence in the art and science of election engineering.

Keep Calm and Count Sheep!
Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Politics! Fragile, non-transparent institutions with little accountability, bad governance, weak individual and social ethical compass, and disdain for innovative technology are lynchpins to election engineering and fraud. One must sweep the inherent injustices in a system under the rug and limit public scrutiny to not only insure that vote rigging is successful but also weakens public confidence in an electoral system and its procedural fairness to a point that the free will of the people could never rock the rutty obscurantism from the inside or the outside. Public fear, submission to and acceptance of vote tampering and fraud, even by minuscule percentages, are meant to be legitimate instruments of political power. This is Pakistani realpolitik!

Below we share an ‘incomplete’ list of potential ways to engineer a Pakistani election and be successful in electoral fraud, largely in the context of Punjabi politics but applicable with minor adjustments to the rest of the country as well. Some do’s and don’ts, so good luck rigging, at your peril and bliss:

Before Polling: (i.e. from oath-taking/losing to the start of voting on the next polling day)
  1. Grundnorm: An election day is too late for electoral fraud. If you get reported or caught beating your opponents, stuffing ballot boxes and fudging results, then people would complain, election observers/monitors would notice and you would hurt your political credibility and legitimacy – so, start early;
  2. Register new votes in the electoral lists for your halqa/constituency by entering fictitious families, over-reporting births/marriages/new arrivals in families, under-/non-reporting expatriates/deaths, relocating new community groups into your halqa, etc. Also, toughen registration requirements for the voters, communities and groups who dislike you and make laws governing political parties cumbersome for your rivals;
  3. Seek a new demarcation of the halqa/constituency boundaries. Don’t wait for a census, delimit and redraw the voting maps according to your political liking and convenience. Use GIS and other software for mapping and analysing demographic data and drawing expedient electoral maps;
  4. Review the lists of polling stations in your halqa with your Returning Officers and ECP. Ensure that the polling stations for places with lesser public support are switched to remote hard-to-reach locations, particularly female polling stations. Also endeavour that the opponent votes in such places get deleted or switched to neighbouring constituencies. Make certain that electoral fraud masquerades as incompetence on ECP or someone else’s part;
  5. Retain absolute control of at least four departments in your halqa/constituency: police, land revenue administration, local baldia/Metropolitan or Municipal Corporation/zila council and Public Works department. Ensure that the SHO police station, moharrir police station, patwari, tehsildar, chief officers of baldia/MC/zila council and Executive Engineer/EDO (Works) posted in your halqa/constituency are your most trusted lieutenants and are at your beck and call, 24|7|365, particularly in supporting your constituency and campaign expenses;
  6. Procure plenty of development funds, regular and discretionary, for your constituency from the Executive. Get few ghost projects going, do some inauguration photo-ops, realise kickbacks and not only feed yourself and fill your next election’s kitty but also share the fruits with biradri heads, tribal chieftains, political goons and government functionaries in your halqa/constituency. Also acquire employments in government departments for your cronies. Don’t be a miser! The networks you build through political, familial and financial patronage will be central to your strong political base and continued election victories;
    Programme, Condition & Control the Sheep
  7. Buy media space in all major outlets, especially those accessed by poorer and less educated voters, and make sure that they trumpet your successes, hide your failures and vices, and portray you as a statesman. Also invest in PR and opinion research firms and buy public opinion polls. You must be the dominant brand in voters’ minds and your propaganda machine should pitch and position your opponent(s) as less loyal, outsider(s) and inexperienced;
  8. Review the electoral rolls thoroughly three months before the polls. Model the demographics, past trends and future projections to determine a safe margin of votes needed for victory. Figure out how to bridge any gaps, develop a polling aka rigging strategy and get all needed/involved on board accordingly;
  9. Prepare a list of all dead and expatriate voters in the electoral rolls for your halqa and ensure that these get cast in your favour on the voting day;
  10. Buy votes en bloc, especially from low-income communities/slums/labour colonies, in lieu of cash or kind during the week before elections. For instance, disburse a token sum of money per vote and retain the NICs from these targeted communities in advance of the polling day, hand out free lunch boxes and food hampers, etc;
  11. Direct the patwari/tehsildar/lambardar/SHO/chief officer to mislead opponent voters to wrong polling stations or seize their NICs, coerce doubtful voters or buy/seize their NICs, and facilitate known solid voters with transport and refreshments on the polling day;
    Bureaucracy in Politics
  12. Make certain that the heads of civil and police administrations in your halqa/constituency are your trusted lieutenants and do not take any action on your opponent’s complaints/protests. If the (District) Returning Officers could also be engaged as friends, it would be an icing on the cake;
  13. Seek access to personnel involved in official printing of the ballot papers and pilfer extra ballot papers for your halqa/constituency from the source in advance;
  14. Arrange for a significant delay in the issuance of postal ballots, should you believe that people asking for postal ballots are not likely to vote for you;
  15. Make certain that the presiding officers posted at polling stations in your halqa, especially at the women, rural and remote hard-to-reach polling stations, are known to you directly/indirectly, are of your liking, and/or have been under your obligation and patronage. This would help maximize your votes on the polling day;
    Stolen ballot papers
  16. Ensure that political lieutenants and goons contact selected presiding officers on the night before the election, as they usually receive election material from Returning Officers on the eve of election. Make sure that the presiding officer craftily opens the sealed bag of ballot papers and hands over to your representatives as many as you have worked out for a safe victory. No bother, the presiding officer could tie up those bags again and blame the ECP for poor sealing/packaging or shortage of supplies. Extract this cooperation and shape the desired outcome artfully; ensure that fraud masquerades as incompetence on ECP or someone else’s part; 
During Polling: (i.e. official voting hours of the polling day)
  1. Depute strong, agile and sneaky agents at each polling station on the polling day. Make sure that the polling agents belong to that particular neighbourhood/ward/union council and/or are well familiar with voters and voter demographics at that polling station. Pay special attention to the women, rural and remote hard-to-reach polling stations, as these can help transform a close contest into a resounding victory for you;
    A stolen ballot box with damaged ballot papers
  2. Establish that political lieutenants and goons could bully, harass and intimidate opponent voters before/on the polling day. Voter coercion, intimidation, suppression and a low turn out, especially in localities with lesser public support, would work to your advantage;
  3. Direct the presiding officers/returning officers to open late and close early in places that will likely not vote for you. Utilize these blocked hours to manipulate the ballot boxes, as needed. These places should also run out of ballot papers and election supplies, and have long queues to deter all potential voters. Make certain that fraud masquerades as incompetence on ECP or someone else’s part;
  4. Assure that the presiding officers follow a ‘go slow’ polling approach, frequently stop the polling altogether, especially in places that will not likely vote for you, whether on the pretext of shortage of supplies, voter brawl, overcrowding, official inspection, lunch break or power failure. Fear and fatigue would likely dissuade several voters to return from the polling stations or render them unable to cast their votes within the scheduled polling hours;
    Stolen and damaged ballot papers
  5. Ensure that your polling agents are able to canvass inside the polling station, enjoy unrestricted access to polling booths/secret balloting areas, and could ‘challenge’ as many opponent voters as possible during the course of the day;
  6. Ensure that the presiding officers/polling staff offer incorrect or confusing directions to opponent voters, allow your lieutenants to cast multiple ballots including fake ballot papers, tamper ballots cast/being cast, and are able to seize ballot papers from voters especially women, elderly and rural folks and stamp themselves, shunt out the opponent polling agents frequently, eject them and/or even lock up the polling station for periodic intervals to tamper, stamp and stuff the ballot boxes. Make certain that fraud masquerades as incompetence on ECP or someone else’s part;
  7. Facilitate domestic and foreign election observers/monitors who are your ideological soul mates. Do not open doors for every one to survey around at will; so limit their movements and access to selected sites only. Minimize the likelihood of any “quick counts” and comparisons of results declared at polling stations with those tabulated provincially/nationally by ECP;
  8. Establish that political lieutenants and goons could intimidate, sabotage and manipulate election observers and monitors, as, when and where needed; 
After Polling: (i.e. from the close of voting to the Gazette Notification of winners by ECP)
  1. Wherever possible, insure that the presiding officers do not give certified copies of results for polling stations (Statement of the Count, Form XIV) to the opponent’s polling agents deputed but rather eject them from the stations during the counting of votes on-site;
    Votes cast but replaced/swapped
  2. Wherever possible, assure that the opponent’s polling agents do not accompany the presiding officers, ballot boxes, election material including ballots cast, counterfoils, electoral rolls etc back to the office of the (District) Returning Officer at the end of the day. Arrange for the return transfer through your own political lieutenants and goons;
  3. Do not allow a secure chain of custody. This is your insurance and you must be able to store ballot boxes overnight in a discreet location. If all else fails, ballots could be replaced, added or decreased and indeed the ballot boxes swapped, as needed, during the return journey from the polling station to the (District) Returning Officer’s office. If you get caught, leave no trace and blame on the opponents and/or miscreants trying to discredit you. Direct the civil and police administrations that you have pampered to watch your interests;
  4. You must be able to fiddle the results during any potential counts/recounts in the (District) Returning Officer’s office, particularly interpretation of procedural irregularities, vote tampering, valid and invalid votes, postal ballots, etc;
  5. Make certain that the election commissioners (and election tribunals) remain favourable to you during final consolidation and gazette notification of results, and hearing of any appeals challenging your victory or credentials;
  6. Be systematic, forceful and resilient. Do not worry of even a statistical detection of electoral fraud. Benford’s Law (naturally occurring sets of numbers, such as returns from polling stations, have distinctive patterns that fudged and made-up numbers never match) is for dimwits and does not apply to Pakistani elections;
Finally, a future insurance, consider adoption of computerized voting technology for the next election, so that you don’t have to go through the above ordeal again and could do untraceable manipulation with the stroke of a key and no likelihood of verification of the electoral process and results. In the past, as summarised above, people had to work locally and often in a limited time, space and scope to assure the ballot box fraud, but with E-Voting (touch screen machines and no paper trail), just one programmer can steal the ballot provincially or nationally for you! Hurray!!

Nevertheless, if none of this helps you win an election in Pakistan then who said that politics in Pakistan was principled, upright, easy and straightforward. Let the walls of secrecy and electoral engineering strengthen!

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Disclaimer: The above is a political satire only and NOT a suggestion or recommendation. Electoral fraud, rigging, violence, etc are serious offences punishable under relevant laws.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Prayer for Pakistan!

where one can find food and shelter
and be free to dream one's dream.

A land - where men can work and earn and be (....)
And women can hold their heads up
and walk without fear and smile.
A land - where children can laugh and learn and play ...
and the tyranny of the few does not oppress the many
and Justice is swift, simple and sure.

I long for a land
free from the stench of corruption
and the greed of empty parasitic shells pasturing as leaders.

I long for enough to long as I long ...
I long for enough to long as I long ...
To turn my land into such a wonder.

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 by Zahra Shahid Hussain (RIP)
Founding Member & Vice-President, Movement for Justice, Pakistan
(assassinated - May 18, 2013 in Karachi)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 – A Fragmented Vote or A Polarised Polity?

The people have spoken.

The bloodiest elections of Pakistani history climaxed with an election-day violence, voter intimidation, harassment, rigging and fraud, especially in Karachi and Lahore, which should put the heads of the Election Commission and the caretaker government in shame. Was it the collective failure of the civil-military bureaucracy in Karachi or has the ‘underworld’ of Karachi become a monster bigger than the state? Will the government have the courage to call for re-polling on all constituencies of Karachi instead of few dozens of polling stations or a single constituency?

At the time of writing, the final tallies are still being counted and the results still arriving; however, few trends are clear. The likely return of PML-N to Islamabad, the inability of PTI to engineer a tsunami or even win a simple majority in the centre, the bleak situation in Karachi and a dismal voter turnout in Balochistan have exposed some inconvenient and bitter realities and fragility of the Pakistani body-politic, such as:

The brand Bhutto and hitherto incumbent PPPP have been reduced to a small rural, provincial party in Sindh, though the PPPP also seems to have been punished by its traditional voters for poor governance and mismanagement of its government. Simply put, the rural Sindhi voter has refused to throw off the yoke of feudalism and the shackles of serfdom.

PML-N’s politics of patronage and kinship has prevailed in Punjab, though performance of Junior Sharif was also a cofactor. Punjab has again proved how deeply pervasive the effects of colonialism remain in its people’s mindsets and psyches. Simply put, the Punjabi voter has refused to throw off the yoke of familial and biradari politics and continues to expect a beneficiary-benefactor relationship with the ruling elite. However, Punjab also sees an emerging rural-urban divide, with the educated, urban voters protesting against political inertia and apathy and demanding a “new social contract” with the state.

As a corollary, PML-N, with its inadequate performance in the smaller provinces, now also appears more as a provincial Punjab-based party. With a divided mandate and a fragmented polity after the 2013 Vote, the smaller provinces may now see governments different from the centre. In Pakistan’s nascent democratic system, it would be challenging for the leadership as no single party is likely to win a clear mandate in the centre, nor a respectable representation from all federating units. It is premature to say what implications this could have on the acceptability and stability of a Punjab-dominated federal government or on inter-provincial harmony or on the selection for the next prime minister. With already two successive Punjabi prime ministers under the previous PPPP government, will PML-N now consider proposing a person from a smaller province in the larger interest of national reconciliation and unity, should it be invited to form the central government?

The kind of political, economic and security challenges that Pakistan faces today are more intrinsic than extrinsic and PML-N would be well-advised to take a leaf from the past and choose right priorities for its next government. Although PML-N has often strived to enjoy unfettered power in the past, it would now help itself and Pakistan by seeking to genuinely solve problems of the common man and empower the masses instead of empowering itself or a continuing patronage of political affiliates, or picking up turf battles with other state institutions over past and closed transactions, or throwing the country into anarchy and chaos.

PTI’s ideology has prevailed in KP, with fewer exceptions here and there, and KP has again showed the free spirit and resilience of the Pushtun society. In tribute to the KP people, choosing representatives free of the pressures of terrorism, sardars and familial politics speaks of the egalitarianism around which the KP/Pushtun society is broadly structured and their emerging political maturity.

Nonetheless, failing to engineer a tsunami should not demoralize PTI and its supporters or dissuade them from their ideology. Imran Khan and PTI have dragged the country out of negativity and given people hope of a better future that – yes, they can build. By any standards, theirs is a formidable accomplishment for a new political party with a short history to win a significant proportion of votes and in effect reshape political discourse, landscape and dynamics of the body-politic. Recall that despite a three-decade standing, only two nominees of Jinnah’s Muslim League had succeeded in the 1937 elections before it swept the Muslim electorate in 1946. So, PTI may like to take this all in a stride and rather work in the interim on reinforcing its grassroots networks across all provinces to build a nationally representative political force that could connect with the rural masses directly as it has done with the urban voters to overthrow the yoke of serfdom and feudalism or at least minimize the role of feudalist, mercantilist politics in the political system.  Above all, there is now a real opportunity for PTI to operationalize its manifesto on a smaller scale in a province and present a role-model for the rest of the country to emulate, should PTI be invited to form the KP government.

In a way, the elections have confirmed that feudalism and illiteracy/low literacy rate continue to be the biggest “structural” impediments in the political system. The resultant fragmented mandate and polarised polity beg a question whether the Westminster model of democracy suits the ground realities and dynamics of the Pakistani society, political parties, voter mindset and political system? Should there be a serious thinking about a presidential system with proportionate representation that could insure political stability, good governance and an issue-based national political discourse? Should there be a new “social contract” between the people and the state to realign the federation/federating units - or - should ascent to power for the sake of power, self-interest and cronyism remain prime considerations?

One must realize that the people do not elect politicians as “rulers” through a vote but as their “representatives.” In a way, We the People are the “employers” and the representatives are meant to be the elected “public servants,” paid to work for the people and insure basic rights and services for the people to live with security, dignity and quality of life. Unless the masses are well-informed to understand the nature and responsibilities of this employer-employee relationship, professional politicians would continue to trick the people – but the people and the state might not be able to endure the wait for the political promises to “trickle down” to them!

One must also remember that the first and foremost responsibility of any government is to provide security and good governance to its people. And one of the challenges of the next government would be to curb extremism and sectarianism, improve centre-provinces relationships and national unity, and insure services for an exploding population instead of continued abdication of basic services to non-state or international actors.

The people of Pakistan are entitled to demand good governance from the government that they put into office and deserve a better and fairer deal from the state!

The road may be long and difficult but the future must stay positive for Pakistan!

Falak Ke Dasht Main Taron Ki Aakhri Manzil
Chale Chalo Ki Wo Manzil Abhi Nahin Aai

In Peace!